The Wire


Listen to Lawrence English's Cruel Optimism

February 2017

Stream the new album by the Brisbane, Australia based composer and Room40 label founder

Sound artist and composer Lawrence English describes his latest album as a work of "protest against the immediate threat of abhorrent possible futures". Released via his own Room40 label, Cruel Optimism features contributions from Mats Gustafsson, Mary Rapp and Tony Buck, Chris Abrahams, Werner Dafeldecker, Norman Westberg, Brodie McAllister, Vanessa Tomlinson, Heinz Riegler and Thor Harris.

‟This edition owes its title and its origins to the wonderful text of the same name by American theorist Lauren Berlant," explains English. "I had the fortune to come across her writing almost a half-decade ago. In [Berlant's book] Cruel Optimism I found a number of critical readings around the issues that have fuelled so much of the music I have been making recently… particularly her writing around trauma I found deeply affecting. It was a jumping point from which a plague of unsettling impressions of suffering, intolerance and ignorance could be unpacked and utilised as fuel over and above pointless frustration.

‟When I made [2014 album] Wilderness Of Mirrors," he continues, "storm clouds of unease were overhead. As I have worked through Cruel Optimism, what seemed an unimaginable future just a few years prior, began to present as actual. Over the course of creating the record, we collectively bore witness to a new wave of humanitarian and refugee crisis (captured so succinctly in the photograph of Alan Kurdi’s tiny body motionless on the shore), the Brexit decision, the black lives matter movement, the widespread use of sonic weapons on civilians, the Trump presidential campaign, increased drone strikes in Waziristan, Syria and elsewhere, and (acutely for me and other Australians) dire intolerance around race and inequalities related to same sex marriage. The storm had broken and felt utterly visceral. Cruel Optimism is the cathartic shelter I built to weather this storm.”

Cruel Optimism is released by Room40 on 17 February. English is currently touring Europe with Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart as HEXA; for dates and details visit his website

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